Local businesses and non-profit organizations are joining together to offer Responsible Rides, an affordable car-ownership program for lower-income working families. New River Community Action (NRCA) and Total Action Against Poverty of Roanoke (TAP) are working in conjunction with Freedom First Credit Union, Freedom First Insurance and Enterprise Car Sales to offer the program.
NRCA and TAP began working on the project two years ago with the goal of identifying a sustainable solution for lower-income working families to obtain car ownership. Freedom First was brought into the project for its lending expertise and Enterprise because of its large inventory of affordable used cars for sale.
In rural areas such as Pulaski, car ownership can be a critical factor in obtaining and keeping a job, as well as allowing the opportunity to earn higher wages and gain better employment. Limited access to a vehicle can also restrict the amount of time families can spend together and impacts quality of life decisions involving shopping, medical care and housing.
Access to car ownership is a common problem for many families in the New River and Roanoke valleys. The U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of 2008 reports that one in 15 households of the NRV do not own a car.
Factors contributing to lack of car ownership include overpriced and unreliable cars, high interest rates offered by predatory lenders including many “Buy Here, Pay Here” locations, high down payments, hidden purchase costs and limitations due to poor credit ratings.
Responsible Rides is available to residents of the NRV and Roanoke Valley with household incomes at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. Additional program requirements are completion of a free three-hour financial education seminar and attendance at a two-hour vehicle maintenance class.
NRCA and TAP believe that educating individuals on money management and basic car maintenance will better prepare them for the responsibilities of car ownership.
To take advantage of the program, contact Donna Stevens, Responsible Rides Program Director, at 540-580-6588.